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Supreme Court Considers Obamacare Birth Control Mandate

Nuns of the Order of St. Francis rally outside the Supreme Court in Washington, March 23, 2016, as the court hears arguments to allow birth control as part of healthcare plans.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard a case Wednesday that found them deeply divided over a familiar topic: contraceptive health care.

With the death of Justice Anthony Scalia, the court has only eight judges to hear the case, four of whom usually lean to the liberal side and four to the conservative.

The justices heard about 90 minutes of oral arguments Wednesday on how women who work for religiously affiliated institutions that object to birth control can access contraceptives through their health insurance.

The court ruled in previous years that, under the U.S. health care act known as Obamacare, such institutions can be exempted from covering the cost of birth control for their employees, leaving the cost instead to the government and insurance providers. Now such institutions are challenging the part of the law that requires them to allow their insurers to pay for contraception.

If the court remains split four-to-four between liberals and conservatives, the question will remain unresolved and could come before the court again in the years to come. Meanwhile, a patchwork of federal court rulings on the matter will remain in place rather than a uniform national policy.

WATCH: The Supreme Court is the highest court in the United States.